How do you teach a T-Rex good manners? A mom's dilemma
My little guy LOVES dinosaurs. He wakes up talking about dinosaurs, he goes to bed with dinosaur bedtime stories, some of his most prized possessions are his dinosaur toys. And of course, his last two birthday cakes have been dinosaur cakes. He’s even happy just to talk about them. “Mom, I know! Want to talk about dinosaurs, huh?”
And so the one-sided conversation begins. He tells me how mama triceratops protect their babies, that lots of dinosaurs like to eat leaves, that the “brachiosaurus neck is SO long, right, Mom?” I’m not sure how many other four-year-olds could identify (let alone pronounce!) a parasaurolophus, iguanodon, diplodocus, or styracosaurus. But he sure can :) It’s so fun to have him love something so much. In fact, I can’t deny that dinosaurs have totally found a special place in my heart just because they’re so important to him.
The trouble is when other people are around, he becomes a dinosaur. Usually a velociraptor, triceratops, or tyrannosaurus rex, literally stomping around, showing his sharp teeth, and roaring in faces. In fact, I dropped him off to preschool one day and his teacher’s first words were, “Hi T-Rex!” At the time I felt so grateful for having found a preschool teacher who cares enough to truly get to know my child and love him just as he is. But now I feel worried. I’m not so worried about the roars and stomps. He surely won’t want to roar like a dinosaur forever, right? And it’s a perfectly normal behavior for a four-year-old, dinosaur-obsessed boy, right?
What I’m worried about is that it’s something more than that. Does he feel overwhelmed when he’s around other people and hiding behind a dinosaur helps him cope? Is he uncomfortable and roars because he doesn’t know how else to act when he feels that way? And I’m worried about the hugs, the sweet smiles, and the “hi’s” that aren’t happening.
Because honestly, who wants to be ambushed by a vicious T-Rex when they could be greeted by a sweet boy? But mostly I’m worried that it’s not his love for dinosaurs but rather my lack of parenting that this dinosaur has been allowed to emerge from. I tried to insist on greeting our family and friends the way a polite boy should. Then I hesitated. I knew it was important that he understand what acceptable behavior is, but I also wanted him to know I accept him for who he is, always. And that perfection is NOT a requirement for being a kid. And then guests reassured me that he was just fine and being a normal boy. Not to mention that taming a T-Rex felt like a lost cause… so, yeah, I gave up.
Maybe I’m overthinking it. But in my experience, kids are like sponges ready to learn. And as his parent it’s my job to teach him, especially when it comes to manners and nice behavior. So I guess the real question is: do I teach him to be a polite boy... or a nicer dinosaur?